Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Happy Anniversary Mousquetaire
When my friend Lily Hodge wrote me asking if I could write a few words in honor of the 25th Anniversary of D'Artagnan for whom she works as director of public relations, I thought something on the order of Sheesh, has it only been 25 years since there was virtually no fresh foie gras or magret to be had in the United States?
In 1981 when I was beginning my career as a professional cook I knew a few things for sure: I wanted to cook something like the classical French cooking that my paternal grandfather cooked when he was working at The Hotel Pierre and I wanted to specialize in charcuterie.
I also knew that cooking was going to be hard work but I never imagined how difficult it was going to be to find the ingredients required to reproduce the dishes that my grandfather described and that populated the pages of the books that chose for my crash course in the haute cuisine (You know, the usual suspects Escoffier, Pellaprat, Larousse Gastronomique et al.)
There was plenty of things like high quality imported foie gras and dried and canned wild mushrooms that could be ordered from now defunct companies like Amazon de Choix and and S.S. Pierce. High end Manhattan based meat suppliers like Debragga and Spitler had beautiful veal and lamb but there was no fresh foie gras, quail, squab, venison, rabbit were all difficult to find in the urban and suburban markets.
Then around 1983 it all began to change. Farmed salmon started coming in from Norway. There hadn't been decent wild salmon in the markets for years- it was a god send. Vacuum packed foie gras d'oie from Israel was a great improvement over the canned stuff but proved to be useless for cooking because it had been pasteurized and became gritty when heated for too long. When D'Artagnan showed up on the scene in 1985 with quail and rabbit and fresh foie gras and magret it felt like things had really changed and that we were finally going to be able to cook like the chefs we had been trying to emulate so badly, for so many years.
Happy Birthday D'Artagnan and thanks!
Please note: I have not been writng much lately in part because my computer has been acting funny by choosing to occasionally ignore different key strokes on dfferent days. Today it s ignore the letter "i." Yesterday it was "m," the day before "f." So, wrtng s very tedious indeed!